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A pianist and teacher at New York’s New School, Raykoff here focuses on the peculiarities of Hollywood films depicting pianists. Raykoff points to the paradox that ‘while other solo instrumentalists and singers face the audience as they perform, the pianist does not.’ This means that any filmed close-ups of the performer’s face and hands innately distort the music-making experience as seen and heard in concert halls. From this basis, he says, develop the countless bizarre, grotesque and perverse thematics of filmdom. Raykoff explores three postwar films (one from Sweden and two from Hollywood) featuring blind pianists as romantic protagonists out to get the girl. There are pianist boxers, and even pianist murderers. Describing oddball movie plots with breathless devotion, these chapters include a particularly interesting one on myths about female pianists. Citing Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan and other trendy thinkers with abandon, the narrative sometimes goes overboard, such as when it soberly diagnoses as a ‘symbolic castration’ an Abbott and Costello film gag involving a thumb smashed by a piano lid. Whereas elsewhere in Dreams of Love Freudian analysis may bear fruit, it somehow does not seem appropriate to the brainless japes of Abbott and Costello. Whether referencing movie star autobiographies or works by contemporary poetasters, Dreams of Love punctures some canards, such as the salesmanship that led pianists as different as Vladimir Horowitz, Jorge Bolet, Shura Cherkassky and Earl Wild to be marketed at various times as ‘the Last Romantic’.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing